We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Kann Union wirklich Meister werden?*

Well over a decade ago fellow Samizdatista Michael Jennings and I walked into a bar in Berlin. There was a game of German Second Division football on the telly between Ingolstadt and Union Berlin. Union scored and the place went nuts. Other than ourselves and the bar staff there were 3 other people in the bar. Clearly, this was no ordinary team.

Indeed it wasn’t. Union had been reasonably successful in the East German league – although – perhaps wisely – not as successful as Dynamo Berlin who were backed by the Stasi. Now you might have thought with reunification teams from the East would have been welcomed with open arms. Not so. West German teams didn’t really fancy the competition. If you have ever wondered why Celtic and Rangers don’t play in the English Premier League much the same reasoning applies. So Union found themselves playing in a regional league. They almost went bust. At one point fans gave blood to keep the club in business. At another they found themselves rebuilding the stadium.

Just to get into the German Second Division was an achievement. A few years later they got themselves into what the Germans call “Relegation”. This is where the third best Second Division club plays the third worst First Division Club to decide who gets to play in the superior league. Usually, the First Division team wins but on this occasion – inspired by the club song written by Nina Hagen no less and one of the most fanatical sets of supporters to be found anywhere – the boys from Köpenick – yes, that Köpenick – triumphed.

Of course, it is one thing to be promoted to the top division, quite another to stay there. It is not as if Union is overburdened with advantages. Berlin is not a particularly rich city. Their ground has a capacity of a mere 22,000. Their Berlin rivals (Herta) get the Olympic Stadium – yes that Olympic Stadium – to call their home. Union’s utter refusal to depart from the fan-owned system means they have no sugar daddy to spoil them. And yet, at the time I started writing this post this was how the table looked:

Oh, I don’t think this will be how it looks at the end of the season. I suspect they’ll fall away in much the same way I suspect the EPL’s own temporary over-achievers will fall away over the next couple of months but even so, given where they’ve come from this is a hell of an achievement.

*Headline in Bild.

EU “chat control”

Let me start by saying that I am no techie and I do not understand exactly what the EU are proposing with this law. Perhaps I am getting steamed up about nothing. But it sounds horrible. I first read about this topic via a link from Reddit Europe to a post from the blog of a Swedish VPN service called Mullvad. The original Swedish version first appeared as an article in the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. The English version follows: “Stop the proposal on mass surveillance of the EU”

The European Commission is currently in the process of enacting a law called Chat control. If the law goes into effect, it will mean that all EU citizens’ communications will be monitored and listened to.

This text was originally published as a debate article in the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet and it calls on Swedish politicians to vote against the law proposal. In order for the law to not become reality, more countries need to vote against it. Therefore, we encourage journalists and citizens in all EU countries to question their governments and urge them to vote no.

Right now, the EU Commission is intensely working on a legislative proposal that would monitor and audit the communication of all European Union citizens. The regulation is called Chat Control, and it really does include all types of communication. This means that all of your phone calls, video calls, text messages, every single line that you write in all kinds of messaging apps (including encrypted services), your e-mails — yes, all of this — can be filtered out in real time and flagged for a more in-depth review. This also applies to images and videos saved in cloud services. Basically, everything you do with your smartphone. In other words, your personal life will be fully exposed to government scrutiny. So, why is it that almost no one is talking about this?

The previous day the same Mullvad blog had warned that an unintended consequence of the bill might have been to ban all open source operating systems, although an update says that “Open source OSes might be saved from being covered depending on the interpretation of EU regulation 2019/1150 2.2.c.” Well, that certainly puts my mind at rest.

Samizdata quote of the day – Royal Air Force recruitment disaster version

Why might an organisation such as the Air Force be tempted to pursue compliance with such zeal that it ends up unlawfully non-compliant? The simple, if cynical, reason is that for any bureaucracy, targets related to process are much easier to hit reliably than targets related to outcomes. What’s more, outcomes-based targets which can be brute-forced through process – ensuring that 40% of recruits are female by 2030, for example – are easier to manage than end-use targets, such as having an operationally effective Air Force.

Henry Hill, CapX.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Governments over the years have ruined many successful domestic industries. Interference in football could well have the same doleful effect. We have enough problems for the government to sort out before it interferes in yet another area of economic and social life.”

– Professor Len Shackleton, IEA Editorial and Research Fellow, and author of the report Red Card. The quotation came from a press release I received today from the IEA.

This brings a whole new meaning to “brigading” on social media

What is the 77th Brigade for? According to its own website, the mission of this unit of the British Army is to CHALLENGE THE DIFFICULTIES OF MODERN WARFARE. Despite the capital letters I do not feel hugely better informed. It continues,

We are a combined Regular and Army Reserve unit. Our aim is to challenge the difficulties of modern warfare using non-lethal engagement and legitimate non-military levers as a means to adapt behaviours of the opposing forces and adversaries.

Um, okay. I would not want the difficulties of modern warfare to go unchallenged. I would even be up for them challenging the easy bits of modern warfare while they’re at it. However, before I give my wholehearted support to “adapting behaviours of the opposing forces” I would like to know what adapting-without-a-to means in normal English. Is it us changing them or them changing us? The question is pertinent because according to a whistleblower who contacted the civil liberties organisation Big Brother Watch, the last part of the line about the target of the British Army’s behavioural adaptation squad being “opposing forces and adversaries” seems to have been quietly dropped.

This link allows you to download a Big Brother Watch report called Ministry of Truth: the secretive government units spying on your speech.

The key findings are:

  • Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Conservative MPs David Davis and Chris Green, high profile academics from the University of Oxford and University College London, and journalists including Peter Hitchens and Julia Hartley-Brewer, all had comments critical of the government analysed by anti-misinformation units.
  • Targeted speech included public criticism of the government’s pandemic response – particularly lockdown modelling and vaccine passports – as well as journalists’ criticism of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and MPs’ criticism of NATO
  • Soldiers from the Army’s 77th Brigade, tasked with “non-lethal psychological warfare”, collected tweets from British citizens posting about Covid-19 and passed them to central government – despite claiming operations were directed strictly overseas
  • A counter-misinformation unit pressured the Dept. of Health to attack newspapers for publishing articles analysing Covid-19 modelling that it feared would undermine compliance with pandemic restrictions.
  • MPs and journalists were featured in “vaccine hesitancy reports” for opposing vaccine passports
  • Contractors paid over £1m to trawl social media for perceived terms of service violations on selected topics and pass them to government officials
  • Counter-disinformation units use special relationships with social media companies to recommend content be removed
  • Front organisations aimed at minority communities were set up to spread government propaganda in the UK
  • BBW have provided a jolly little template that allows you exercise your legal right to find out if you personally were having your social media posts monitored. However that does seem to involve giving the government the real name behind your twitter handle, which in the circumstances…

    Samizdata quote of the day – Let’s not re-write the recent past

    Becoming vaccinated was the easy choice, not the hard one. There was never any evidence it was the sensible choice and it could be argued – and this may seem harsh – that if you were determined to be part of the group, wilfully and determinedly deaf to any counter-argument or even call for caution, absolutist in your own belief in you virtue and knowledge, irrationally frightened of death, unthinking, superficial and glib, fearful of other people’s opinion of you, filled with desire/fear to comply with the powerful for safety or favour, then becoming vaccinated was the only choice. But these are not exactly admirable qualities.

    Common Knowledge Edinburgh

    I suspect this article will annoy some people as it is a divisive issue. I do not agree with every point of the article either (I am not anti-vaccines per se, I just don’t think this particular one made any sense), but it does raise points worth pondering.

    So, when does the Brexit dividend arrive then?

    This is a slightly altered version of a comment I left on a Brexit page on Facebook as prompted by this article about IMF forecasts and related issues at Reuters:

    The most ardent Brexit supporters have to take this sort of analysis on board because it is relentless in much of the media, and not without reason. Some of those who backed exit from the EU for freedom reasons wanted the liberalising impact of less red tape, a reduction in the burden of the State, and a more intelligent government approach to areas where the State inevitably gets involved, including R&D spending, infrastructure, education, etc. Nearly all of the drivers of long-term wealth creation are home-grown, and cannot be blamed on the EU, or attributed to it. Long before we even thought of a referendum, the UK’s productivity and investment levels were poor, from 2009 to 2019, by past and contemporary standards. (The referendum was held in 2016 and we only actually left four years later.)

    The petulance of the EU in trying to harm the UK for the sin of leaving was probably inevitable and forseeable, and there is a need for whoever is in Westminster and Whitehall to slash the burdens on business and the individual to balance this out, as well as hammer out genuinely good FTAs with countries that broadly share our values and market systems. A mutual recognition of standards approach to the EU, when it comes to EU-destined exports to the bloc, should be possible in time although it may take a while for the EU to avoid the “cutting off the nose to spite the face” stance of the past few years. The UK remains an important trade partner, given our net importation of manufactured goods from the continent.

    Samizdata quote of the day – Congrats on the hit piece, Konstantin!

    What’s more, a hit piece from a mainstream media outlet is rather a status symbol in my line of work. “You’ve arrived,” a friend helpfully explained. Indeed I have – following the viral speech at the Oxford Union, a second appearance on BBC Question Time and now this hit piece, I reflect on the last couple of weeks with tremendous satisfaction. And a lesson or two learned along the way – I will continue to engage with people from all over the political spectrum in good faith, but I’ll be recording the interviews myself going forward.

    Konstantin Kisin

    The inadequacy of political “kindness”

    In response to a Times article called “How I watched the halo slipping from Jacinda Ardern”, a commenter called Iain Thorpe made a very good point:

    There are deep problems with “kindness” as a political philosophy. If kindness is the answer to all problems, then the problems must be caused by unkindness. And people who disagree with you must be unkind people. Obviously you don’t have to listen when unkind people try to tell you anything. And you certainly don’t have to offer them the same concern or compassion as other people. Their unkindness is their own fault. You don’t have to do anything for it, or for them. And so “kindness” ends up being without empathy, the opposite of inclusion. Adern’s inability to deal with people who disagreed with or were disadvantaged by her government’s policies was striking. She seldom even attempted to speak to them and seemed incapable of winning over anyone who opposed her.

    Challenger tanks are no panacea

    Like many Brits the fact that we were the first to promise to supply Ukraine with modern main battle tanks was a source of tremendous pride. And Jingoism. Let Putin eat British lead, depleted uranium, HESH etc,. Rule Britannia, Britannia rule the steppes etc,.

    Luckily, the YouTuber Matsimus has come along to pour a bucket of cold water – mixed in with a few unpleasant substances that one wouldn’t want to mention on a family blog – over any triumphalism that might be in the air. Sure, the Challenger 2 can be a very capable tank, but it is not invulnerable – especially in the configuration that the Ukrainians will receive – and keeping it in the field will be no cakewalk.

    Current countdown on the Extinction clock…

    April 18th 2003:

    Crash course towards massive species extinction, says Defenders of Wildlife.

    Nina Fascione, Vice President for Field Conservation Programs at Defenders of Wildlife, quote: “Frankly, it looks like we’re on a crash course towards massive species extinctions in the next 20 years […] We could lose one-fifth or 20% of our species within the next two decades. That’s a very short amount of time”.

    As of time of posting, 79 days left to come true.

    Brian Micklethwait interviewed on the subject of the history of libertarianism in London

    I have updated the Brian Micklethwait Archive with a recording of an interview kindly given to me by Mal McDermott.

    On 25th January 2020 Mal interviewed Brian on the subject of the history of the libertarian movement in Britain.

    The interview of course contains much insight into libertarianism in London. From Brian finding a copy of The Machinery of Freedom in a bookshop in Staines, to the Alternative Bookshop and the Libertarian Alliance, to Samizdata and Libertarian Home.

    Being a conversation with Brian, there is much digression. Discussed are the USSR, the NHS, the importance of being understood, the influence of getting people to give talks, the left wing pivoting from the working class to the environment, the creation of wealth, optimism and the freedom of children. There is much Micklethwaitian wisdom to enjoy.

    The interview can be listened to on YouTube.

    On the left, once you’re persuaded, you’re also persuaded of a political model for how to do it … we must elect a socialist government or topple the government and replace it with a socialist regime, and then we will make everyone socialist. … By its nature it’s a highly cooperative enterprise … A perfectly reasonable reaction to becoming a libertarian is to do what I’ve done for the last fifteen years … which is to write lots of blog postings about kittens. Because I like it. … One of my reactions to believing in freedom is that I’m free to go off and do that.

    1:42:26